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Thursday, December 14, 2017

How We Can Change How the World Sees Christmas

 I continue to hear the complaints over and over again...people refusing to celebrate Christmas, boycotting one of the two most important holidays of the year because it's all getting to be too much. Too much commercialism, too much focus on Santa Claus, too much spending, too many carols playing too early in the year, that it's not really the actual birthday of Jesus, that's it's become about all things except the real thing...its. just. overwhelming. And just like that, Jesus seems to be lost. Lost in the hustle and bustle of all things holiday, and the Lord Himself appears to be forgotten. The meaning of Christmas stolen by secularists and retailers. Left to only the religious to remember. 
 I stare at the Christmas tree and the decorations all around. Is this what some people are left to believe? That one cannot participate in Christmas because Christmas is out of control? That taking away Christmas is the way to fix what's broken about it? My heart is heavy...and I think I know why. 
 I think I know because I think I understand how one can blame something as wonderful as Christmas for all things chaotic and ruined when it's not the fault of that thing at all. Christmas isn't the problem. What fallen humanity has done to Christmas IS! Christmas itself and it's most reverent meaning hasn't changed. How we as residents of this crazy world see it has changed and that's the real issue. We no longer view Christmas as the sacred time of remembrance that it once was intended to be. Oh, we sing the songs, we decorate, we still gather with family and friends, we bake cookies, we go to special church services...but is all this out of mere tradition? If we were to seriously look at what we've made this season out to be, we should honestly be ashamed of what we've turned it into. Starting with Black Friday, we blow past Thanksgiving and are onto buying for Christmas the very day after we've all supposedly counted our blessings. After we've theoretically reflected on how grateful we are, we turn right around and push into stores with money flowing out of our pockets so we can simply grab a good deal. And that's how we start out our Christmas season. We rush around from one even to the next, checking stuff off our to-do list...eventually ending up on December 25th with a pile of gifts, and the love of family. But where did the Savior end up in all this? God forgive us...we left Him out. 
 Yes, maybe we did sing the carols about His birth, but did we pause to think of the great anticipation of His coming to Bethlehem? Did we consider the lostness of our sinful condition through Adam and why we needed saving? Did we even take time to begin to grasp the history-altering event that took place in that manger-birth? Because there is so much more to Christmas than traditions and celebration. I'm all for the rejoicing and the decorating and the happiness. But I think God wants us to "do Christmas" differently. 
 This year, I've taken a different approach. Thanks to the reading of two inspiring books, I've been determined to see Christ through the carols, to experience Jesus in my traditions. To leave the wildness of the season for a more peaceful and God-centered way. For starters, I did most of my Christmas shopping in October so that I wasn't buying stuff at Christmas. Then, when the season started, I began reading through a devotional book called "Christ in the Carols" where I'd read a carol a day and the subsequent reflection. I was stunned at how much I gained theologically by simply reading the words to the carols I know and love so well. Then, I also began reading a book called "Child in the Manger" which has been a mind-blowing read for me and has opened to be countless layers of the Christmas story that I've never considered. I have felt my heart opened in worship as Christ has been welcomed into it, humble manger of sorts that it is. Filled with the still-lingering depths of sin, I still feel myself beholding the glory of God. I feel my heart being broken into praise with the angels and, somehow, God is drawing nearer. 
 And I see here that this is how we can change how the world sees Christmas. Not by joining in all its commercialism, nor even by boycotting it altogether. Actually, we can change it by slowing down and looking for Christ in it once again. Of course, Jesus is not wholly lost from it - many sincere believers still hold the true "reason for the season" dear. Yet I think that we've lost our notice of the miraculousness of this incredible event and why it forever altered human history and eternal destiny. When Christmas is seen in light of the cross, when we view Jesus as more than just a baby and instead as the Lord of Heaven who humbled Himself for our sakes, then it all changes. You re-gain your awe. You are lost in wonder, love, and praise. You feel compelled to break into worship with the shepherds. To rejoice in all things holy and divine laid aside for redemption's sake. The hymn-writer Charles Wesley said it well: 
"Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth."
 For unto us this Savior was born - unto us weak ones, broken ones, sinful ones this Jesus has been given. And because He eventually bore the cross for our sakes, we can call Him "...Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6-7).  He became poor for our sakes so that we would become rich. He gave up His royal place so that He could walk among us, identify with us, be Himself for us. When you realize what love drove Him to do, you can't wait to celebrate what an incredible God He is. You see Christmas as His celebration. It isn't for the industries, or the pundits, or the the worldly. Christmas is a holiday for God's people. And we ought to change how people see it because we have the spirit of Christmas - Jesus Himself - inside of us every single day of the year. 
 So deck the halls, be merry and full of cheer. Hug the ones you love and take in the special miracle-moments that make up this time of year. Enjoy your traditions, but in all of that - remember that Christ is the fountain from whom all blessings flow. So let there be joy to the world - the Lord has come! 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas Quote of the Day

"The Light never comes how you expect it. It comes as unlikely and unexpected - straight into Bethlehem unlikely and the feeding trough hopeless, and Christmas whispers there is always hope. It doesn't matter how dark the dark is; a light can still dawn. It doesn't matter if the world whispers, 'There's not a hint that help will come from elsewhere,' telling us that nothing will ever improve, get better, change. God favors the darkest places so you can see His light the brightest. And once the light of Christ shatters your dark, shadows forever fleeing your shadowlands. There's no going back and living in the dark; you live in the impenetrable, safe Light of light, and Christmas never ends for you. A Christian never stops living Christmas. True, you cannot light Christmas - because it's Christmas that lights you."
          - Ann Voskamp in The Greatest Gift

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Christmas Quote of the Day

" The miracle of never not happening.When your Father's hand isn't readily apparent, it's only because He's readying gifts. Gifts always come out of the unseen and hidden places. It's a miracle itself - how you don't have to order a Christmas miracle. The miracle of Love is happening all around you. Christ coming freely, willingly, now - coming unseen into everything." 
                   - Ann Voskamp in The Greatest Gift

Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas Quote of the Day

"Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies,
He who, throned in height sublime,
Sits amid the cherubim.

Sacred Infant, all divine,
What a tender love was Thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this."
- Edward Caswall 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Christmas Quote of the Day

"When the King rules your world, you cease to rule or worry. All worry dethrones God. All worrying makes your King and God incompetent. There is a King born in Bethlehem and on the throne. You can breathe."
               - Ann Voskamp in The Greatest Gift

Friday, December 8, 2017

Christmas Quote of the Day

"God gives God. He withholds no good thing from you. And the good things are not so much about health, but holiness; not so much riches in this world, but relationship with God; not so much about our plans, but His presence - and He withholds no good things from us because the greatest things aren't ever things."
           - Ann Voskamp The Greatest Gift

Thursday, December 7, 2017

What I Really Want This Christmas

 I sat on a log and shifted my feet in the sand. It had been 22 years since I'd last visited this place. It held fun childhood memories for me, although my retention of those memories, apart from photos, was a bit limited. And that is why I wanted to go back. I wanted to feel like a kid again. I wanted to get in touch with something that adulthood has stuffed - pure joy. As one gets older, they begin to be consumed with a performance-driven culture, a forever rushing, chasing lifestyle that causes many to forfeit the most important things in life because they forget what really matters. And I've fallen for it. Over the past few years, work and responsibility have taken over. I've bought into the idea that fulfillment must be had at the expense of life abundant. And, somewhere along the way, I lost me. I lost the little girl that remembers running freely into the Pacific Ocean and spending the day playing on the sand over summer vacation. I lost the child in me that used to be fascinated by the smallest things. I lost my perspective. And now I came back to try to find it again. 
 As I listened to the waves crashing against the shore and took in the gorgeous sunset over the ocean, I felt the weight of years of "adulting" falling off my soul. The kid the had long remained dormant started to come alive. In the squawking of seagulls and the peacefulness of the quiet seaside evening, I realized that, what I really want for Christmas, for life in general, is a life that is lived well for Him. Lived only for Him. In my heart, I breathed the words, 

"More of You, less of me - 
Make me who I'm meant to be..."

When your life becomes less about the rat race that is accomplishment, success, doing more, and living less, you lose the beautiful things that make up this one chance we get at fulfilling our divine purpose of "glorifying God and enjoying Him forever." We begin to miss the evidences of His love. We begin to rush on past where He wants us to be now because we're only concerned with getting ahead. We become about doing when what the Christian life is based on is being. Resting in all things already accomplished for us. Spending all our days in praising the One by whom all things consist and exist. 
 As the shoppers rush around with their gifts, as the holiday craziness ensues, I'm left feeling as though I want something better. I long for something deeper, for something more than just presents, parties, and decorations. I'm left desiring memories made: cherishing the moments of watching Christmas movies at night with the family, or the little traditions that are uniquely ours - of decorating the tree and sharing the many stories that go along with the ornaments, or the music recordings that we only get to listen to once a year, (especially those awesome old vinyl records that I grew up hearing as a kid that still get played every Christmas). I'm left wanting worship - wanting this Christmas to be a reminder to me of when Heaven touched earth and a thousand angels sang, "Our God is here!" 
 God. With. Us. Those three words changed forever how humanity could live. Instead of life being about a remote relationship with God and Him being only accessible in a holy place of worship, God was now accessible within the human heart!! God was now here with us to dwell forever with those who believed in Him. God loved this hurting world enough to give up His regal splendor and clothe Himself in human flesh and offer Himself a living sacrifice for the redemption of mankind. Christmas isn't just about baby Jesus - it's the foreshadowing of the cross and all that it would mean. It's the acting upon God's promise to human history that the sin of Adam and Eve would not be the final story. That God wasn't done with his created world just yet. And that's why I want more. I don't want to miss a moment of what God wants to say in this the season of celebrating His birth. I don't want this to be "just another Christmas" this year but rather, I want my whole heart to sing "Glory in Highest!" all year long! I don't want the message to end on December 26th but instead, to compel me to living loved and living gratefully all year long
 And so, I headed back to my car from the beach and's going to be different this year. I'll still dig out all the ornaments, all the lights, all the traditions and things that speak Christmas...but I'm going for more this time: I'm going to welcome it with a full heart of joy, a soul that realizes that the Savior came for me and that every day I live is another opportunity to show to a dying world that this miracle that happened in Bethlehem is, indeed, the answer for all that ails us broken ones. Because that one silent night gave us hope that forever continues to change us, to make us into who we're meant to be. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Christmas Quote of the Day

"...Till God in human flesh I see,
My thoughts no comfort find;
The holy, just, and sacred Three
Are terrors to my mind.

But if Immanuel's face appear,
My hope, my joy begins;
His name forbids my slavish fear,
His grace removes my sins."
- Isaac Watts

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...How good has He been to me! How gently has He led me! How often has He restored me when wandering, revived me when fainting, healed my breaches, supplied my wants, heard my prayers, and set up a seasonable standard against my enemies when they have been coming in upon me like a flood! And even now He is with me, He is never weary of doing me good, and I believe He will be with me, even to the end, till at length He brings me home to His kingdom to be near Him forever. Hence, indeed, arises a great part of my grief, to think that I should be so cold, and barren, and unprofitable, under such amazing displays of undeserved love. O Lord, touch the rock, and cause the waters to flow; soften and inflame my heart, that I may at length become Thy disciple indeed."
            - John Newton

Monday, December 4, 2017

Christmas Quote of the Day

"Worry is belief gone wrong. Because you don't believe that God will get it right...In the thin air of Advent, you may not even know how to say it out loud: 'I thought it would be easier.' And your God comes near: I will provide a way.You may not even know who to tell: 'Thought it would be different.' And your God draws close: I will provide grace for the gaps. You may not even know how to find words for it: 'I thought it would be...more.' And your God reaches out: I will provide Me."
              - Ann Voskamp in The Greatest Gift

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Quote of the Day

"There is no harm in looking ahead, but it is unwise to try to carry next week's burdens today. There is nothing wrong in looking ahead, but needless worry in regard to the future, is not only useless but injurious - besides evidencing lack of implicit trust in our heavenly Father's care for His redeemed people. Worry looks tremblingly ahead, but never accelerates, and always hinders the speed in life's race. Yet many drag through life weighted with all sorts of needless cares and are never in their element unless looking for still more trouble. They are always watching for clouds, and are never content to bask in the sunshine." 
                   - J.C. Pittman 

In the bustle of the holiday season, don't miss the beautiful things right in front of you. Don't get so wrapped up in what you need to do that you forget the miracles God is performing on a daily basis. Don't waste your time looking for clouds... 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Quote of the Day

"With respect to my own experience, I have little now to add to what I have formerly offered; at least, little variety: for, in one sense, every new day is filled with new things; - new mercies on the Lord's part, new ingratitude on mine; new instances of the vileness of my nature, and new proofs of the power of sovereign pardoning grace: - new hills of difficulty, new valleys of humiliation; - and now and then (though, alas! very short and seldom) new glimpses of what I would be and where I would be."
          - John Newton

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Taking A Break

 In the spirit of stepping back to take stock of our blessings, I am taking this opportunity to enjoy the Thanksgiving season with family and friends and will not be posting much, if at all, for the next couple weeks. I will, however, still be checking my Instagram and Twitter, so feel free to stay in touch with me there. While I love posting to this blog, there are times that I need to recharge and regain my perspective. I look forward to connecting with you all again in the near future. Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving, and don't forget to count your blessings and keep living in grace and faith everyday! 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Another Year of Counting Thanks...

 Two Thanksgivings ago, I put up a post titled Counting The Thanks. In listing many of the ways I saw God at work that year, it propelled me into a further counting of thanks which continued all through last year. This year, I want to continue the list even further...listing blessings in 2017 that have reminded me of all the ways in which God loves and is forever good. As you read some of my God-moments this year, I'd encourage you to list your blessings, too. (Perhaps you'll even post a few of them here to share with my readers and I!)
As the gratitude keeps on spilling over, I will continue to trace the numerous grace-gifts which He endlessly bestows.

In 2017 I am thankful...

...for renewed health after struggling with some stress-related issues the last year or two. Finally getting to live with greater energy and strength has done a lot for me! He is indeed the great Physician!

...for the incredible gift of a new friend in my life named Rachel. God dropped her sweet soul into my world early on this year, and my life hasn't been the same since! Goodness, I love doing life with that girl! Hard to believe we've know each other so short a time...

...for the opportunity to celebrate my grandma's 90th birthday with her in person this year. Such a special visit for a couple of days, spending time together and celebrating her all she means to me. 

...for the thrill of getting to see my friend Conner as a professional baseball player and visit him at his home stadium in California after nearly two years of not seeing him. Also meeting his family for the first time and talking with them during the game. A short time spent but so heart-warming. 

...for some much-needed "adopted" auntie time with my little nephew and his parents. Two blessed visits of sharing, caring, and passing around the love and the laughs. So thankful family isn't just contained to those we're related to! 

...for a beautiful visit to the redwood forests in Muir Woods outside of San Francisco with friends I hadn't seen in ages. Nothing like a tranquil walk through the majestic trees, capped off by a fun picnic with the chipmunks. It truly doesn't take much to have an amazing time with those you care about.

...for a delightful Memorial Day visit with my friend and marine, Zerbin, and his sweet family. I was so touched by how they welcomed me into their gathering simply at his invitation on short-notice and made me feel right at home. So many laughs and fun memories made as we thanked God for those who have given their lives for this country. 

...for getting to see my friend Jon after close to three years as he made a quick business trip up to my area. A late night talk in the hotel lobby was so encouraging and neat!

...for my friends Cam, Staudy, Jackson, and Michael getting the opportunity to pursue their dreams of each being a professional baseball player. Can't wait to see where God takes these guys and their talents!

...for another summer of baseball memories made. Even though the challenges were many and the adversities numerous, God still showed up and did a big work. Knowing Mike became a Christian made it all so very worthwhile. 

...for our baseball head coach getting to present the Gospel to some young children at our kids camp. You just don't know what fruit those seeds might produce someday.

...for the blessing of getting to welcome my friend Jason to Alaska for the very first time. What a tremendous ten packed days of fun as we adventured in this beautiful part of God's  country up here! Seeing the change in him over that time made my heart happy. 

...for my friend Michael being brave enough to venture into the uncomfortable places of my life this summer, challenging me to be more, not to settle for an average walk with God, and making me feel valued and loved in a way that changed everything. Three conversations over the summer gave me the courage to be brave in ways I hadn't wanted to before. I'm better in so many ways because of him being in my life!

...for a wonderful chat with my friend Preston at the Alaska Baseball League All-Star game this summer. It touched my heart to hear that he was willing to give up a very lucrative professional offer in order to return to Alaska for a second time to play baseball with a group of Christian guys. God used him mightily in so many ways. Seeing that God's plan was more important to him than money was down-right inspiring. And I thanked God for that.

...for two of my girlfriends taking me to dinner on my birthday. Such a sweet time of fellowship, love, and plenty of laughs - including one at my expense when Lindsay dropped the hint to the restaurant that it was my birthday when I told her not to say (she says she genuinely forget) and I ended up with a sombrero on my head and the whole restaurant knew from the birthday song. Can't beat good times with special people.

...for my friend Phil getting married to the girl of his dreams just over a year after coming close to losing his own life. God is still in the business of working miracles! 

...for the fun surprise of my childhood friend Zack coming back into my life after fourteen years. Lots of catching up to do and yet, still so much in common after so long. What an unexpected blessing!

...for the gift of reconnecting with my friend Grant after nearly two years. So thankful to have him back in my world, still making me laugh with his fun texts. Hearing that chuckle over the phone never gets old! 

...for the gift of new life when several other lives ended in my world this year. Always a reminder that God makes all things beautiful, even the hard ones, in His time. 

...for my friend Collin being such an encouragement to me during a hard time of personal transition in my job and life in general. Hearing from another recovering approval addict who understood my struggles somehow made it easier to walk through the uncertainty of a new chapter God was calling me to.

...for God sparing my friend's daughter Ellie's life when a wave began to carry her out to sea. God's protection is something none of us can take for granted - nor the brief lives we live on this earth. 

...for my amazing boss who continues to blow my mind with his balance of people relations and business, always pushing me to step out in faith from my comfort zone and yet to never leave people behind in your quest for success. 

...for the gift of faith. I've come to see the meaning of that one powerful little world so much this year, and I've come to learn how to employ it as my hope against fear. 

...for the simple truth that "Christ is all-sufficient." That His grace is enough for all that is required. I never have to worry if I am following what He asks of me.

My list keeps on going...and going...and going. The thanks keeps on pouring out, flowing over - because goodness and mercy have followed all these days with hope and promise. I'd recommend that, between now and Thanksgiving, that you make your own list of blessings (big and small) and remind yourself of just how many gifts He's given. It just might surprise you how much God has done for you in 2017! 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Though He put forth His hand, and seem to threaten our dearest comforts, yet when we remember that it is His hand, when we consider that it is His design, His love, His wisdom, and His power, we cannot refuse to trust Him."
                   - John Newton 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Indeed, it is not amiss that you should now and then meet with a balk, that you may learn, if possible, not to count too much on what tomorrow may do for you; and that you may begin to feel the impossibility of being happy any further than your will is brought into submission to the will of God. In order to this, you must have your own will frequently crossed; and things do and will turn out, almost daily in one way or other, contrary to our wishes and expectations. Then some people fret and fume, are angry and impatient; but others, who are in the Lord's school, and desirous of being taught by Him, get good by these things, and sometimes find more pleasure in yielding to His appointment, though contrary to their own wills, than they would have done if all had happened just to their wish."
                  - John Newton 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Our King could so easily reveal everything to us and make everything so clear! It would be nothing to Him to tell us all our questions. When He does not, cannot we trust Him and just be satisfied that He knows and would tell us if it were best? He has many things to say unto us, but He waits till we can bear them. May we be glad that even our sins are not hid from Him? Yes, surely, for He who knows all can and will cleanse all. He has searched us and known us, as we should shrink from knowing ourselves, and yet He has pardoned, and yet He loves." 
                 - Frances Ridley Havergal

Monday, November 13, 2017

Quote of the Day

"O soul, are you not ashamed that you ever doubted the love that brought you here? Are you not ashamed of your hard thoughts of God and His providences, repining the ways that have led to such an end? Are you not sufficiently convinced that the ways you called hard and the cup you called bitter were necessary? The Lord had a sweeter purpose and meant better than you would believe. Your Redeemer was saving you as much when He crossed your desires as when He granted them, and He was saving you when He broke your heart as much as when He bound it up. No thanks to you, unworthy self, for this received crown, but to Jehovah and the Lamb be glory forever!"
                 - Richard Baxter

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Our trials are either salutary medicines, or honorable appointments, to put us in such circumstances as may best qualify us to show forth His praise. Usually He has both these ends in view; we always stand in need of correction; and, when He enables us to suffer with patience, we are then happy witnesses to others of the truth of His promises, and the power of His grace in us. For nothing but the influence of God's good Spirit can keep us, at such times, either from despondency or impatience. If left to ourselves in trouble, we shall either sink down into sullen grief, or toss and rebel like a wild bull in a net."
                   - John Newton

Friday, November 10, 2017

Called To Do Hard

 Hard things. Life is made up of them. Many of them, in fact. We know this to be a part of our human existence and yet, somehow we run. We hide. And we think we can avoid them. Grow without them. It's taken me years to accept this, but I'm starting to realize there is no other way. Hard things are my path - your path - to what really matters. Honestly, they are the Savior's path to the most important lessons we can ever learn. 
 I spent the past couple of days thinking about this...tracing this path of hardship through the Bible and finding a pattern for why suffering matters. Why the opening of the heart through trouble is a necessary part of life's journey. And I found a thread running through it all - hard things proceed great outcomes. God often takes people through big tests of will, faith, and nerve prior to doing something huge in and through their life. 
 Take Abraham for example...among the many hard things God asked him to do in the course of His life, the hardest by far was to sacrifice his only son. If you read the story in Genesis 22, you find a man who is pushed to the absolute limit of his trust in God: to kill his young son, through which so much blessing had been promised, as an offering to God at God's request. And yet, you see Abraham's faith in that He never asked God "why?" I'm sure he probably wondered initially if he'd heard God right when God asked him to do such a thing, but He still said "yes" to God's will...even if he didn't understand. Obviously, God provided a different answer when He saw Abraham's willingness to obey, but that hard thing was the testing point by which God determined his faithfulness: "...for now I know that you fear God...(Gen. 22:12)." 
 As you continue through the Bible, we notice Joseph - how he had to be sold into slavery so that he could be down in Egypt when the famine hit Israel and could one day save his family from it. He had to go through hard things before He could receive God's blessing for himself and His family (Gen. 37-50). 
 We see Gideon when God asked him to go and fight the invading Midianites - how God told him to choose his army carefully and that He asked all the soldier wannabes to do a hard thing before they could be accepted into the elite fighting force. That Gideon would know who he was to choose by the way in which they drank water. God whittled down his fighting force from 32,000 to 300. And God did a mighty victory because 300 men were willing to do the hard thing (Judges 7). 
 We see God allowing Job to lose everything - family, possessions, health - so that God might see his devotion to the Lord. 
 On and on the stories go...until we arrive at the ultimate example: God the Father asking His Son Jesus Christ to go to the cross on behalf of sinful mankind in order that He might provide a way of redemption. Jesus didn't want to be crucified - He didn't go singing to the cross and happily accept His destiny. Rather, He pleaded with His heavenly Father to take away the cup being given to Him. with all of these examples beforehand...He went willingly. He offered Himself to the Father's will and said "yes." 
 All of these examples make it clear to us that we are called to do hard things. We cannot avoid them and still become who we're meant to be. There is no other way. God lays this out as the path of true transformation. Of learning to submit to the will of God no matter what. Sometimes we fight the hard things God is putting in front of us - we look for a way out...a way of escape...when what God's really after is the yielding of our hearts. 
 His ways are hard to trace sometimes. There are moments when it seems as though He's completely lost it and has no care for us. we step out after Him in faith anyway? God won't always show you the "whys" of your life. But He will show you the "Who" in your life - is it yourself? Your own way? Or is it God and His way? Selfish ambition rarely is exposed more clearly than when our backs are up agains the wall and we don't see a way around the hard things in front of us. At that point, we are faced with a choice as to who we will believe - our own judgement or God. 
 I don't know what hard thing you might be facing - it could be that you're stuck in a job that you hate and there's no change in sight; maybe its a crushed dream that you thought was within reach and now lies dashed on the floor of reality; perhaps its learning to get along with a boss that you dislike, or dealing with the disappointment of being passed over for a promotion and being forced to work in a lower level than you wanted. Maybe its getting up the courage to have a tough conversation with somebody about a personal matter that should've been addressed a long time ago. It could be an injury or medical issue that has sidelined you from your normal job/activity level, and you face a long recovery. It could even be a terminal diagnosis...
 Whatever your "hard thing" is - know this: that "our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles (2 Cor. 4:17)." The whole purpose of God's allowing hard things to happen to us is to refine, transform, and redeem us for something greater than the disappointment, the sadness, the frustration we now feel. What we lose now is nothing compared to what we will gain later...and God knows we cannot acquire what He wants us to learn any other way. We must walk through these things. But, our assurance lies in that He has promised we will never walk through them alone. That He is always with us and that He Himself knows the reward of walking through the hard. When you're to the end of your rope and you thing you can't face another setback, another challenge, another disappointment...remember that others have trod this path too...including your Savior. Keep choosing brave and stepping out in faith...even when you don't see the outcome. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Quote of the Day

"It is fitting for Christians to bless God in the saddest condition that can befall them. Faith finds mercy in the greatest affliction and in the saddest mixture of providence. Praise God for past mercies and it will not be long before you have a new song in your mouth for the present mercy."
                    - William Gurnall in Voices From the Past

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Making Sense of the Senseless

 The headlines have been imprinted on our minds in recent weeks...senseless acts of cold-hearted violence that have ripped apart families, communities, and countless lives. Acts that have shocked our country and made us sit back with aching hearts and wonder, how could this have happened? Why did we get this way? More importantly, where was God? 
 From Las Vegas to New York and now to San Antonio, the horrifying events have left us reeling and looking for answers. Answers only to be found in the heart of God. 
 When I was younger, I used to ask "why" a lot - why do people behave as they do? why does a loving God allow such horrible things to happen? where is God in our worst moments? I had a faith that could only take me so far when it came to explaining suffering. I know I'm not alone in such questioning. Particularly at a time such as this when our nation is gripped by mourning for these recent tragedies. How does one make sense of the senseless? 
 My perspective began to change a few years back when two things happened in my life that changed how I look at life's worst moments: 1) when I had to suffer myself, and 2) when I was introduced to the truth of God's sovereignty and providential Hand. 
 When one has suffered themselves, they are not so quick to question "why" because they begin to realize that adversity happens to all of us. It is a by-product of living in a sinful, fallen world - nobody escapes its reality. Even though we may attempt to avoid it, run from it, hide from always manages to find us. And yet, in a startling conclusion, we also discover that it has the potential to make us better. It changes who we are and how we view ourselves and what we believe. What we learn from suffering causes us to see life's worst moments as opportunities - however painful - to grow and transform into the person we're meant to become. 
 When we also realize that a sovereign and just God still rules even in the worst of times, it somehow lessens the pain of the blows life gives us. God is not the cause of all things wrong, unjust, hard, sad, or hurtful but He allows these realities to occur in our broken world so that we may see truth for what it is. That we may know what really matters, what really lasts. That we may hope for what we do not see when everything around us tells us to despair. Understanding that God orchestrates events and situations for the sole purpose of bringing broken hearts to Himself and glorifying His name, allows the hurting soul to take refuge in a truth that transcends this dying world. While God has left much of His beauty in this earth, even that is fractured by the sin-sick identity we bear from our first parents so long ago in Adam and Eve. When you see so much wrong in our world, think of this: how much worse would this world be without a redemption-plan in existence through the Lord Jesus?! Sometimes we get so focused on trying to find answers to our problems that we forget the One who sits on His throne, guiding all things for the fulfillment of His will. We ask God if He cares, if He's still out there. Truth is, God never abandoned us - it was us who abandoned God. And God's been chasing our hearts ever since, sometimes using even the painful stories of our lives to call us back to what is sure, lasting, and true. Wooing us back into His grace and His forgiving love. 
 Knowing these things hasn't fixed everything for me. I still fear greatly when my comfortable life gets shattered by the unpredictable. I still mourn for the sad things that happen to either myself or to others. I still feel all the emotions that being a human being includes. But even when my head has yet to agree with God's plan, my heart is allowed, by faith, to bend the knee and surrender to Him, whose plan always and forever trumps mine. The way you make sense of the senseless is to make God your refuge. To attempt to see things as He does. To believe even when His ways don't seem to be readily understandable. It all comes down to trust. Do you continue to trust in the unchangeable goodness of God when all around you things are falling apart? Do you dare to keep opening your two yielded hands in faith when your soul tells you to fear the worst? Do you leave everything in His capable control when nothing around you adds up? 
 Most of the journey to grace is about resting in the unseen. Much of what goes on in this crazy world will not be explained in full until we are all judged in eternity for our actions. But there are glimpses of hope even in the darkest hours. God never leaves or forsakes us. God has never stopped being in charge. He's still there and always will be. He's still moving even when we can't see it. Sometimes you simply have to leave it with Him and walk away in faith. And look for the little evidences of His love in which He shows up in the tragedy and reminds us that redemption is His work. That, in time, even the worst things shall be made beautiful. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Don't Miss The Beautiful Things!

 Don't miss the beautiful things right in front of you today because you're so busy chasing things that don't matter in the long run! Thousands of little gift-moments are waiting in front of you that, if you slow down and notice, will change you into a spirit of thankfulness and surrender! You will see so many amazing miracles and God-moments if you ask God to give you eyes to see...

"I don't want to miss it
I don't want to look back someday and find
Everything that really mattered
Was right in front of me this whole time.
Open up my eyes, Lord,
Keep me in the moment just like this
Before the beautiful things we love
Become the beautiful things we miss."

Monday, November 6, 2017

Emergency State of Mind

 How do you live your one life like it isn't a state of constant emergency? How do you go through your days not giving into that human impulse that says you're in a continuous cycle of emotional 9-1-1 status? 
 Think about it, friend - for all the times you've been hurt, for all the times that suffering has hit you unexpectedly, for all the moments you've been led to doubt the goodness of God, for all the hours you've spent seeing through the eyes of your fears and neglected your faith - all these can begin to cause one to live in an unsettled way. And we then spend time rushing around to make up for what we've lost, or trying to get ahead before we run out of time, or just plain running - from God, from others, from living loved. 
 Life because about nothing more than just doing. We never just are. Have you ever thought of the fact that God created us as human "beings" rather than human "doings?"
We've made this whole journey about performing when existing is our goal. When all God really wants from us is to "glorify Him and enjoy Him forever," we've made it about money, time, sex, accomplishment, and so much else when what God's really after is our enjoyment of Him and our fulfillment of the Gospel-way. 
 Oh, friend! We have much to repent of - this frenetic way of living! Because it isn't really true living after all. We've sacrificed our true purpose on the altar of self-fulfillment and desire, leaving our first Love for the lesser things. We've taken things that are merely gifts to enjoy from God Himself and turned them into counterfeit gods that steal the glory which is rightly His. We have placed other things on the throne of our souls and, for that, we must be ashamed. 
 To answer how you live your life like it isn't an emergency - you live your one life in worship! You praise through your days. Because you only have a limited number of breaths in you. You only have a certain unknown amount of days that only God has control of. And why waste it by chasing frantically after what only leaves us empty? 
 After all, as precious a blessing as each of these things are, they really don't belong to us anyway. They are merely on loan to us because we can't take any of them with us. If we were honestly stripped of everything we had and left only with what mattered...could it, would it, be enough? Because isn't He enough? 
 As the holidays approach, as the speed of our world ever's time we took a step back and evaluated how we "do life" His way. Perhaps, if we began to not live life like the next shoe will drop at any second - if we started taking time to thank as our first reaction instead of fear - if we so ordered our lives as to run on His timing instead of our own - just maybe we could lengthen time a bit. Our numbered days still remain the same but our approach to how we use them would change. Just maybe our money, our personal goals, our relationships, our time would be spent in pursuit of deeper knowledge of God and the advancement of His will instead of the break-neck pace of always reaching but always failing at what is most important. 
 Christian author Francis Chan points out that the thing he most fears is, "succeeding at things that don't matter." I think we could all stand to take a hard look at how we live and ask ourselves if we're succeeding at what's relevant in the world's eyes but failing at what matters most.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Men, indeed, often plan what, for want of skill or ability, or from unforeseen disappointments, they are unable to execute: but nothing can disappoint the heavenly Builder; nor will He ever be reproached with forsaking the work of His own hands, or beginning that which He could not or would not accomplish (Phil. 1:6). Let us therefore be thankful for beginnings, and patiently wait the event."
           - John Newton

Friday, November 3, 2017

Quote of the Day

"In a large building project, the foundations are laid deep. Metaphorically, grace works below the soil and out of view to lay the sturdy foundations of the Christian life. Down under the soil the work seems slow, and then the walls begin to go up. But so does the scaffolding, and in broad daylight the mess and trash and broken stones and building materials lying around the site cloud the progress from many bystanders. The progress is obscured by the rubble. This is the perspective we often have of ourselves and other Christians. The Christian life is a hard-hat area, and we struggle to see God's 'good work' coming together in the mess of our lives. 
 How different is the view of the architect. The architect has done this many times before, and he perceives the end of the project from the first stone to the final shrub. He can steer the progress along to the end he designed. He may need to adjust the materials or change the schedule, but even in the job site mess, the end product is clear in his imagination. In time, the project will be finished: the scaffolding will be removed, the debris cleaned up, the discarded building supplies taken away, the windows and floors polished, and the project delightful in its completion...Grace finishes what the divine Architect planned. As the builder, grace never walks off the job or leaves the project unfinished. The Christian life is always progressing behind scaffolding and debris that clouds our vision and makes it difficult for us to gauge the work of grace in our lives and the lives of other Christians. Yet we are confident that grace executes the Architect's blueprint...The work of grace progresses from behind the scaffold, until the great unveiling (1 John 3:2). This event is on schedule and the infallible Architect will deliver the end product, all by grace."
                 - Tony Reinke in Newton On The Christian Life

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Our Most Vulnerable Place

 I honestly don't know how to put this any other way: our most vulnerable place is the in-between. Those changes that come along where we don't have a clue where to next place our step - that period of transition between what is know and what is unknown. That time of growing pains that call us into deeper trust when everything inside of us cries for the predictable, the comfortable. This. This is our most critical and vulnerable place. 
 For several weeks now, I have been in this place of "in-between." Without divulging all of the recent changes, suffice it to say these have been some of the hardest weeks I've undergone in quite some time. For, in the middle of such mixed emotions regarding the passing of the old and the welcoming of the new, I've found that it seems like I hear the false and true realities both speaking to me - loudly - at the same time! By this I mean that through these uncertain days, I've heard both God and my doubting self quite clearly. 
 I've had times where God has brought great clarity and I've found my peace in His truth more assuredly than ever before. Through prayer and study of His Word and truth, I have rested in what cannot change in a world where nothing ever stays the same. I have blessed and thanked Him for bringing me back to what I can anchor myself to when everything around me is up in the air. 
 Yet, at the same time, I've also heard my own fears, doubts, and lies quite loudly too. At a time when I am being called to affirm where my true identity lies (or doesn't lie), I have heard the Enemy's whisper, "You don't really know who you are, do you? You don't know where you're going!" I have spent exhaustive days speaking truth to myself and reminding myself that I do know who I am because I know Whose I am!! But the questioning, the doubting still hovers. I will admit that sin has been thrown in my face, temptations have escalated, fears have loomed large lately...because I don't yet see where I am heading next. 
 I know what I'm stepping from - I know what I'm leaving...and I do so with mixed feelings...but God has yet to reveal all the details of where I'm going. But this is my most dangerous spot - the spot where I can either dig into what is true more than ever before or I can choose to listen to my fears and abandon my belief. Forsake my trust. Run away instead of stand.
 I think back to the Israelites of the Bible and their wandering years after leaving Egypt. When they were in Egypt, they prayed for deliverance. They thanked God when He granted them escape and drowned their enemies in the Red Sea. They knew they were headed to the Promised Land...but the in-between proved their undoing. The waiting, the lack of prized foods in Egypt, the uncertainty of where they were going, all these resulted in complaining, sinning, and ultimately death to many who would've entered had they not forsaken the God they claimed to trust. Their lack of faith, their failure to transition well, doomed them. 
 In recent days, I've been driven nearly to despair of any progress in my Christian walk as I only see the ways in which I fail. But I also realize that such feelings mean I am failing to see Grace. Failing to see and trust in the God who has promised to never leave His work unfinished. While I only see what's unfinished, messy, un-done, imperfect...He sees the completed product. He sees me as I will become while still loving me as I am now. 
In the midst of my jumble of thoughts, I hear these words in my soul, and I breathe them in deep: "Assaulted on every side - yet I still see You!" 
 Yes...this is what I must come back to. I cannot control the change going on. Neither can I predict what's up ahead - but I can control my responses. I can choose brave instead of choosing fear. I can lean on the everlasting Arms that are strong enough to fight for me when I can hardly stand by myself. I am aware that this is a vulnerable time - a time when I am weak and my faith is small. But this is also a time when I must trust that the God I know isn't close to being finished with me yet. His plans are far more than the little bit that I see now and am basing my judgement upon at this moment. And perhaps, just when I think I'm going backwards and the whole thing is falling apart, He just may confirm that things are actually falling together and allow a greater work to take place through my weakness than what I imagine to be the case now. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Change The World Through Your One Life!

 500 years ago today, a moment took place that forever changed the course of human (and church) history. One man took a stand which, as he put it, he couldn't do otherwise. One man dared to stand with God, thus putting himself against establishment government and religiosity. One man simply dared to believe God and, for him, that was enough. That man was a young monk named Martin Luther. 
 He lived at a time where average people didn't question church or governing authority publicly. Most people kept their views largely to themselves for, if they dared to speak out against the establishment, they were most likely to lose their life. So, for him to step out and publicly declare that the accepted ruling religion and leaders were in error was shocking. Yet it emboldened others to do the same and Christian history was never the same again. God was moving through ordinary people, causing an extraordinary revolution of faith to take place that we are still feeling the effects of today. 
 In that time, the Catholic faith was the predominant religion of the time. And people just accepted what Rome said as being true. And, if they did disagree, they went along with what the Pope and the Church because they feared the consequences if they didn't. People were in bondage to a system often without knowing it. 
 Along comes Luther who, as a young monk on an intense spiritual journey himself, begins to challenge the system and claims that the Church just might be wrong. It was radical to say the least. For years, Martin had struggled to reconcile his sin with a forgiving God. Driven by a desire to earn God's favor, he had gone to such extremes as to whip himself into physical submission to the will of God, thinking that somehow this kind of "devotion" helped one become more holy and would allow one into gracious standing with a righteous and judging God. Over time, however, he had begun to read the Bible in greater depth and stumbled upon a startling statement: "The just shall live by faith" (Heb. 10:38). He realized that the Christian life isn't about performance of religious obligations, perfecting personal devotion, striving for stricter adherence to rules and earning points with God, but rather in simple belief and faith trusting a Savior who had already fulfilled all of the law and had sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for sinful mankind, thus making a way for underserving people to boldly enter into the pleasure and forgiveness of God. Luther's mind was about to explode - this was the match that ignited his burning desire to share the truth of the authority of God's Word. The Catholics had gotten salvation all wrong and people needed to know. 
 Luther started writing books and preaching this new Gospel in his messages to his congregation and seeing it produce spiritual freedom in the listeners. He was convinced that this was a soul-freeing truth that had the power to assure the doubting one of their standing before God. He also began incorporating this newly-revealed truth into the music of his church, writing hymns for his church's services and incorporating congregational singing which, up to that point, had been mostly nonexistent. Of His many beautiful hymns, two continue to be loved throughout the centuries: "Away In A Manger" and "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." 
 Luther's stand upset the established Church all the way to Rome, taking him in front of many authorities who tried to shut up the bold priest. He continued to stand with God, enduring a lengthy imprisonment during which he did a Bible translation into the native German language so that the average person could read God's Word for themselves instead of relying on the accepted Latin text used by the Catholics. 
Starting with his nailing of his 95 Thesis against the Catholic Church on October 31, 1517, Luther shook up the religious world, and started what we now know as the Protestant Reformation. While he never intended to break away from the Catholic Church - only to reform it - a separation ensued nonetheless which would forever change the course of religious history. 

 From one man's bold willingness to step out in faith against the cultural norm and to challenge the religious system for the sake of God's truth and the Gospel, sprang a movement that extended over to a New World a century later when a group of persecuted believers who held many of the similar views which Luther had put forth one hundred years earlier landed in Massachusetts and began what we call the Plymouth Colony. It is now accepted reality by many that the modern Christian church and faith would not be what it is today without Luther's stand. The freedom to read the Bible for oneself, the ability to join in congregational worship, the access to many of the writings which were subsequently published as a result of Luther and other "reformers" speaking out against doctrinal error, would not ours today had one man not dared to take a stand. 
 God may not call you to speak out in such a public way as did Martin Luther, but you are one person and you can make a difference in this world when you willingly step out in faith toward God's plans for your life. By using your gifts and the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, you just may be called to places of influence for God that will blow your mind. God sometimes only needs one yielded person to begin a big work...and that person just could be you!

*For more information about Martin Luther, I'd highly recommend watching the following movie about his life:  "Luther" (starring Joseph Fiennes, 2003)

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

 I think we often wonder the history behind many of our great hymns of the faith, and I thought that this would be a fitting time to share the story behind one of the most well-known hymns of all time: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. In honor of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this year, composer/arranger Dan Forrest has written a stirring rendition of this hymn, even including the sound effects of the nails being driven into the church doors at Wittenburg by Martin Luther on October 31, 1517. Interestingly enough, Luther penned these lines while in the midst of a tremendous personal battle with depression - something he struggled with his whole life. It is a precious reminder that the truth of the Gospel is our only hope in a world fraught with sin and suffering. I invite you to take a few minutes to listen to the Luther's famous hymn and to allow its stirring words to give hope to your soul all these centuries later...

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide?
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God's own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God's truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Our all-sufficient God can give seasons of refreshment in the darkest hours, and break through the thickest clouds of our outward affliction or distress...Cheer up: the Lord has put you in your present trying situation, that you may have the fairer opportunity of adorning your profession of the Gospel; and though you suffer much, He is able to make you abundant amends."
                - John Newton

Friday, October 27, 2017

Quote of the Day

"All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do, and the more we have to do with Him, the more glad and thankful we shall be that there is not anything hid from the King...When we cannot understand what is going on around us; cannot tell whither events are tending; cannot tell what to do because we cannot see into or through the matter before us - let us be calmed and steadied and made patient by the thought that what is hidden from us is not hidden from Him. If He chooses to guide us blindfolded, let Him do it! It will not make the least difference to the reality and righteousness of the guidance." 
               - Frances Ridley Havergal

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sufficient Grace

My Grace Is Sufficient For Thee

Oppressed with unbelief and sin,
Fightings without, and fears within;
While earth and hell, with force combined,
Assault and terrify my mind:

What strength have I against such foes,
Such hosts and legions to oppose?
Alas! I tremble, faint, and fall;
Lord, save me, or I give up all.

Thus sorely pressed, I sought the Lord,
To give me some sweet, cheering word;
Again I sought, and yet again;
I waited long, but not in vain.

Oh! 'twas a cheering word indeed!
Exactly suited to my need;
'Sufficient for thee is My grace,
Thy weakness My great pow'r displays.'

Now I despond and mourn no more,
I welcome all I feared before;
Though weak, I'm strong; though troubled, blest;
For Christ's own pow'r shall on me rest.

My grace would soon exhausted be,
But His is boundless as the sea;
Then let me boast with holy Paul,
That I am nothing, Christ is all."

- John Newton

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The Christian life is not comfortable. God makes us no promises to remove difficult circumstances, or alleviate our pains, or protect us from suffering, but He does promise sufficient grace for all our wants and needs...No matter how large and daunting the circumstance or need, grace is always larger and stronger and more fully sufficient to meet each battle or trial in the Christian life."
             - Tony Reinke in Newton On the Christian Life

Monday, October 23, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The joy of the Lord happens inside the sorrow."
- Timothy Keller

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Let us cast down the load we are unable to carry; and if the Lord be our Shepherd, refer all, and trust all to Him. Let us endeavor to live to Him and for Him today and be glad that tomorrow, with all that is behind it, is in His hands."
               - John Newton 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity."
- Thomas Merton

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Quote of the Day

"One of the secrets of a happy and beautiful life, is to live one day at a time. Really, we never have anything to do any day - but the bit of God's will for that day. If we do that well, we have absolutely nothing else to do. 
 Time is given to us in days. It was so from the beginning. This breaking up of time into little daily portions means a great deal more than we are accustomed to think. For one thing, it illustrates the gentleness and goodness of God. It would have made life intolerably burdensome if a year, instead of a day, had been the unit of division. It would have been hard to carry a load, to endure a great sorrow, or to keep on at a hard duty for such a long stretch of time. How dreary our common task-work would be if there were no breaks in it, if we had to keep our hand to the plough for a whole year! We never could go on with our struggles, our battles, our suffering if night did not mercifully settle down with its darkness, and bid us rest and renew our strength.
 We do not understand how great a mercy there is for us in the briefness of our short days. If they were even twice as long as they are, life would be intolerable! Many a time when the sun goes down, we feel that we could scarcely have gone another step. We would have fainted in defeat if the summons to rest had not come just when it did. 
 We see the graciousness of the divine thoughtfulness in giving us time in periods of little days, which we can easily get through with - and not in great years, in which we would faint and fall by the way. It makes it possible for us to go on through all the long years and not be overwrought, for we never have given to us at any one time more than we can do between the morning and the evening. 
 If we learn well the lesson of living just one day at a time, without anxiety for either yesterday or tomorrow, we shall have found one of the great secrets of Christian peace. That is the way God teaches us to live. That is the lesson both of the Bible and of nature. If we learn it, it will cure of us all anxiety; it will save us from all feverish haste; it will enable us to live sweetly in any experience."
                    - J. R. Miller 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Sometimes I compare the troubles which we have to undergo in the course of the year to a great bundle of [sticks], far too large for us to lift. But God does not require us to carry the whole at once; He mercifully unties the bundle, and gives us first one stick, which we are able to carry today, and then another which are to carry tomorrow, and so on. This we might easily manage, if we would only take the burden appointed for us each day; but we choose to increase our troubles by carrying yesterday's stick over again today, and adding tomorrow's burden to our load, before we are required to bear it."
                 - John Newton

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Quote of the Day

"At present it is January with me, both within and without. The outward sun shines and looks pleasant; but his beams are faint, and too feeble to dissolve the frost. So it is in my heart; I have many bright and pleasant beams of truth in my view, but cold predominates in my frost-bound spirit, and they have but little power to warm me. I could tell a stranger something about Jesus that would perhaps astonish him: such a glorious person! Such wonderful love! Such humiliation! Such a death! And then what He is now in Himself, and what He is to His people! What a sun! What a Shield! What a Root! What a Life! What a Friend! My tongue can run upon these subjects sometimes; and could my heart keep pace with it, I should be the happiest fellow in the country. Stupid creature! to know these things so well, and yet be no more affected with them! Indeed I have reason to be upon ill terms with myself! It is strange that pride would ever find anything in my experience to feed upon; but this completes my character for folly, vileness, and inconsistence, that I am not only poor, but proud; and though I am convinced I am a very wretch, and nothing before the Lord, I am prone to go forth among my fellow creatures as though I were wise and good...Pray for me, that the Lord may teach me to serve Him better."
               - John Newton

Monday, October 16, 2017

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Quote of the Day

"A cup was placed into His hand on our account, and His love engaged Him to drink it for us. The wrath which it contained He drank wholly Himself; but He left a little affliction to taste, that we might pledge Him and remember how He loved us, and how much more He endured for us than He will ever call us to endure for Him. Again, how could we without sufferings manifest the nature and truth of gospel grace? What place should we then have for patience, submission, meekness, forbearance, and a readiness to forgive, if we had nothing to try us either from the hand of the Lord or from the hand of men? A Christian without trials would be like a mill without wind or water...Nor would our graces grow, unless they were called out to exercise: the difficulties we meet with not only prove but strengthen the graces of the Spirit."
                    - John Newton

Friday, October 13, 2017

Quote of the Day

"What if God desires to be present and faithful on your detour? What if He chooses to make His presence powerfully available when you are in the space you least desire to be - ...We can protest, 'But I don't want to experience the blessing of God here! I want to experience the blessing of God over there!' ...Our longing, however deep, may not change the reality. Sometimes we don't get to choose. But will we open our hearts to God? Will we open our lives to His work and His blessing while we are not where we want to be?"
            - Jeff Manion in The Land Between

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Shortness of Life

 Life. Is. Too. Short. 
Too short to not live loved. Too short not to say the things that mean the most. Too short to waste chasing after stuff that only leaves us empty and unfulfilled. As I watch hurricanes sweep away lives and property, as I hear about the California fires destroying countless hopes, dreams, and reminds me that the things that matter the most aren't things - they're the intangibles: Faith, family, memories made, people we made them with, risks we were willing to take, hard choices we were courageous enough to act upon...these are the things that build a life and a legacy. Even if there is no longer "stuff" to your name. Life is too short to get caught up in pointless arguments and meaningless goals. These won't be what we wish for in our worst moments - love, laughter, life, belief, and strength will be. And in God (our most unchangeable person in this ever-changing world) we find all of these.
So hug your dear ones tighter. Tell those you love most how much they mean to you. Invest in what is timeless...because in hard moments, that's the investment we will pull from the most.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Check These Guys Out!

If you all haven't heard of this amazing musical group, you need to check them out! I just downloaded their latest album, "Hymns" and have been loving it SO much! This arrangement of theirs is probably my favorite track on there so far. The group is called Anthem Lights, and they've got a lot of great music out there. Take a listen...

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Quote of the Day

"All our supplies come from God; therefore, our dependence should be on Him, and our expectations from Him. Creatures act towards us in kindness and sympathy, according to His direction. The eyes of all creation are upon the Lord, and all the tribes of His creatures are fed by His hand. How much more, then, should His children look to Him, seek from Him, and expect to be supplied by Him! 
Whatever God does, He does wisely and seasonably; and whatever He gives, is in season. When our needs are felt, and our cry is heard, then our supply is certain. It is but for God to open His hand, and all that we need drops from His palm! When God's hand opens, our desires will soon be satisfied. Every temporal mercy, every spiritual gift, and all the supplies needed by our souls lie in the hand of God for us. He loves for us to fix our eyes on Him, to lift up our voice to Him, and seek every blessing from Him."
                 - James Smith

Monday, October 9, 2017

Quote of the Day

"It is unbelief that talks of delays: faith knows that, properly, there can be no such thing. The only reason why the Lord seems to delay what He afterwards grants is, that the best hour is not yet come...Sometimes He will put us to the trial, whether we mean what we say. He takes His course in a way we did not expect; and then, alas! how often does the trial put us to shame! ...We have reason, however, to say, He is good and wise; for He bears with our perverseness, and in the event shows us that if He had listened to our murmurings, and taken the methods we would have prescribed to Him, we should have been ruined indeed, and that He has been all the while doing us good in spite of ourselves."
             - John Newton

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Surely when He crosses our wishes it is always in mercy, and because we short-sighted creatures often know not what to ask, not what would be the consequences if our desires were granted... A view of what is passing within the veil has a marvelous effect to compose our spirits, with regard to the little things that are daily passing here."
               - John Newton

Friday, October 6, 2017

Tracing His Providence

God Moves In A Mysterious Way

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-ending skill,
He treasures up His bright designs 
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His works in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

- William Cowper 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Here is the fundamental difference between the man of faith and the man of unbelief. The unbeliever is 'of the world,' judges everything by worldly standards, views life from the standpoint of time and sense, and weighs everything in the balances of his own carnal making. But the man of faith brings in God, looks at everything from His standpoint, estimates values by spiritual standards, and views life in the light of eternity. Doing this, he receives whatever comes as from the hand of God. Doing this, his heart is calm in the midst of the storm. Doing this, he rejoices in hope of the glory of God."
           - A. W. Pink in The Sovereignty Of God

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...A believer, like a sailor, is not be surprised if the wind changes, but to learn the art of suiting himself to all winds for the time; and though many a poor sailor is shipwrecked, the poor believer shall gain his port. O it is good sailing with an infallible Pilot at the helm, who has the wind and weather at His command."
              - John Newton

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Don't Miss Now!

 In light of yesterday's post, I thought it applicable to share with you the lyrics to a song that I've been thinking about lately. It's a reminder to not let the moments pass you by, to take the time for the things that matter so that you may finish your one life well, having lived fully. 

Don't Miss Now
by Downhere

The life you chose - there's never a list for it
Of cons and pros - you find what you love, and you commit

And you're looking so far down the road so well
That you could forget your crown isn't just somewhere else.

You get bumped and bruised and worse for choosing the road less traveled;
You know the reward is rich if you persist through the darkest battles;
Open your eyes - your prize is right before you somehow:
Whatever you do, just don't miss now.

You're on a bus, don't notice the miles and months fly by;
To the rest of us, you're living the highest kind of life.

I know the price you pay is costlier than it seems,
But it's worth another day - the end justifies the means.

All that you're working for could blind you 
To the treasures all around you,
So don't miss these moments, please - 
The joy before the crown you seek.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Don't Let The Moments Pass You By

 As many of you will notice, I haven't posted many of my own thoughts here recently. The quotes I have put up have honestly reflected much of how I've been feeling as of late. At times, others' words must become your own when your own words fail you. 
 It's hard to articulate the jumble of emotions I've been dealing with for awhile now... How do you reconcile such varying feelings as joy and sorrow intermingle through this life? Over the last several months, I've dealt with friends battling cancer, someone I knew committing suicide, news of a childhood friend's untimely death due to "poor choices," a friend's death from cancer, friends going off the rails due to bad choices, a relative I've never known entering my life, friends moving, a job change...the list goes on and on. Up and down. Up and down go the feelings. And must cling to an unchanging God in the midst of it all. 
 This weekend, I took a long walk up at a nearby lake to get away for a bit and clear my mind. Feed the soul. Listen to God. It occurred to me how often we let the moments pass us by in our ever on-going race to get ahead, do more, be better. And in so doing, we miss the now. We skip past the fact that God isn't in a hurry as we usually are...and that we more than likely cannot discover how He really intends our one life to be lived if we're always on the run. Always chasing. 

 If we aren't stopping to breathe...if we aren't pausing to take in Him...then we lose what this who thing is really all about. We lose sight of God. And we become the only thing that matters. Gospel-centered living isn't always about quantity but quality. Making the moments of our days worship. Filling with thankfulness. Blessing and praising. Getting off the beaten road and daring to take the one less-traveled so that we gain perspective. So that we learn to open our eyes and see what matters. 
 Life has seemed to go by me at a blistering pace in recent months. And my soul has been starving to be cared for. In my efforts to check things off a list, I've lost a part of me along the way. And recently, a friend dared me to begin doing life differently. So I am. I'm taking a job that will allow me better hours so that I can slow the pace of life down and take time for what is most important. I'm carving out moments to dig deep into Scripture and soak in all that Jesus is and wants me to become. I'm walking away from the hectic pace of modern-day life so that I can have more chances to love deeply, breathe freely. 
 The losses in my life recently have reminded me, once again, that nothing ever stays the same. People who are here today may be gone tomorrow. And I don't want to keep on living with regrets of what could or should have been done or said before it was too late. 
I've spent a lot of time lately texting or calling people that matter in my life to tell them so. Asking their forgiveness in some cases for all the times I haven't gotten it right with them and making determinations to embrace the gift of them more in the future. 
 Today, I want to challenge you to hug those you love tightly. Don't leave anything important unsaid. Seek out the opportunities you have to bless somebody and make their day better. Make amends where necessary. Because life is too short to spend living in a hurry, putting things off, saying the hasty word, doing the hasty deed, or simply thinking that "now is not a good time" to do something you may never get another chance to. 
 In simple terms: don't let the moments pass you by. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Quote of the Day

" Be not discouraged; the Lord only afflicts for good. It is necessary that our sharpest trials should sometimes spring from our dearest comforts, else we should be in danger of forgetting ourselves, and setting up our rest here. In such a world, and with such hearts as we have, we shall often need something to prevent our cleaving to the dust, to quicken us to prayer and to make us feel that our dependence for one hour's peace is upon the Lord alone."
                   - John Newton